Visiting Switzerland's Zermatt on a Budget

Visitors to Zermatt may be forgiven for thinking they had entered an Alpine district of Tokyo, with prices to match. The normally high prices of Switzerland are only exacerbated by the high proportion of wealthy Japanese travellers that the fashion shops, restaurants and 4* hotels seem geared up for. But there are ways to save in summer:

Sleep in Zermatt on a budget

Visitors to Zermatt may be astonished by one of the highest concentrations of 4* hotels in such a small space. Consider the following options to reduce the cost of accommodation:

  • Stay in shared accommodation. Either in the youth hostel (although this is expensive by youth hostel standards), the new Sparky’s Hostel, or book a chalet with a group.
  • Ask for a room without a Matterhorn view and with shared facilities rather than en-suite – both of these can reduce the costs significantly. For example, a single room like this in the very friendly Hotel Alfa is F65/$US60 a night – an ensuite with a Matterhorn view is F108/US$101
  • Look for online deals before you go with ski-companies such as Inghams trying to make use of their accommodation out of their main season. This can reduce room costs to F360/US$330 for a week per person for a twin room.
  • Camp – Camping Zermatt is just south of the railway station.
  • Stay just down in the valley in Tasch, Randa or St Niklaus. Prices here are much cheaper, and it is just a short train ride up the valley each day.

Eat in Zermatt on a budget

Visitors to Zermatt looking for a good cheap but filling meal are in for a disappointment – the average main meal price is F40/$36. But there are cheaper ways to eat in Zermatt:

  • Visitors should make the most of the hotel breakfast – these can be surprisingly filling and are usually at no extra cost.
  • Use the supermarkets – Migros and Co-op – for lunch and snacks.
  • Have the main meal out at lunch, when the set “day menu” can often be much cheaper, rather than dinner.
  • The Cafe du Pont does a good rosti and bratwurst for F16/US$14.50.
  • The Brown Cow pub (part of Hotel Post) does a huge portion of home-made chips for F8/US$7.50 – they also offer this as a take-away (at the same price).
  • Sparky’s cafe does potato wedges for F9/US$8
  • The Spaghetti and Pizza factory allows eaters to build their own pasta and pizza dishes from F16/US$14.50
  • The Stockhorn Grill does a fantastic herb-covered grilled chicken breast and rosti for just F21/US$19 – this is a real bargain and very tasty.

Enjoy Zermatt on a budget

  • Walk – it’s free, especially on the lower paths that do not need any form of cable car to access!
  • If visiting the higher mountains (or travelling around a lot on public transport) buy a Swiss Card at the border train station (eg Geneva Airport) which entitles the visitor to two days free train travel and 50% reduction on most cable cars, trains and buses in the region. Cost F182/US$165 for 1 month’s validity. Sample savings – F53/US$48 on a day trip up the Kleine Matterhorn.
  • Consider whether buying a Panorama Pass for use on the cable cars is of use – these must be bought near the start of the trip to be of best value – but visitors must be certain they will get full use out of them or they can work out more expensive.

Zermatt is, like most of Switzerland, expensive. But with a little forward planning cheaper options can be found for eating sleeping and enjoying this very picturesque Matterhorn-dominated village.